Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"Samuel Maoz steps into the rhythm of the foxtrot to give structure to the three separate chapters of his intense, reverberating film."

The astonishing part of Foxtrot, Silver Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival and Israel's shortlisted Oscar submission, is that identification works through a man so distant, so unknown to us. And yet, the man with the big secret tackles the riddle of empathy. Screenwriter/director Samuel Maoz steps into the rhythm of the foxtrot to give structure to the three separate chapters of his intense, reverberating film.

It begins with every parent's worst nightmare happening to the Feldmann family. We see a mother fainting because she knows that the Israeli military officers who have come to her home are here to inform them that their son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray) had fallen in service.

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The mother, Dafna (Sarah Adler) is given morphine to make her sleep, as we get to follow the father Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) and his response to the devastating news. He descends into a private and national hell with fine subtleties of suffering and broad kicks of sadism. It is a marvellous, wickedly truthful performance because it balances so many emotions.

Michael harbors long-term guilt and acts out viciousness towards the weakest and smallest member of the household. The latter act is almost unforgivable. Almost, because there is - within all the emotional intensity - the actor standing beside the role, as Nanni Moretti put it so eloquently in My Mother (Mia Madre). The artifice is necessary to get to the main point - the longtime production of destiny.

Michael's mother (Karin Ugowski), a Holocaust survivor, only speaks German to her son. He responds in Hebrew. As normal a conversation as could be in Israel, it also points to the idea that we all use our own language and hope that the other will understand what we do not even grasp ourselves.

Maoz seizes the heart and lets our brains catch up with the metaphors. Foxtrot is a film about family structures in present-day Israel. It is about mourning, boredom and disconnect and ultimately lays open complicity in the production of fate.

Part two takes place at a border crossing with a group of young soldiers in the desert following their routine. It's a forsaken landscape where camels meander at leisure and the barracks, housed in an old shipping container, sink a little bit deeper into the sands of time each day. The inertia of the real kicks in. Part three brings us back to the Feldmanns' apartment we entered at the start. The less said about the plot points, the better.

Lebanon, the director's previous film, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and here he teams up again with cinematographer Giora Bejach to produce a highly charged drama that lets us feel the vast gaping void opening up when one hears that a beloved person has died.

Objects and faces in Foxtrot speak louder than words. A painting, a soul, a lovely dog, the rain - each one of them marks an entry in our dance card. You get to decide which one leaves the deepest impression.

Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2018
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A family's world is rocked when they are told about the death of their son.
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Director: Samuel Maoz

Writer: Samuel Maoz

Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonatan Shiray, Karin Ugowski, Yehuda Almagor, Shira Haas, Dekel Adin, Shaul Amir, Gefen Barkai

Year: 2017

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: Israel, France, Germany

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